Porch swings.....words on mothering

My first Mother's Day gift was my porch swing.  It has taken years passing before I could see what made the difference in my life as a mother.  Porch swings did.

Childhood memories....MawMaw Lida sitting on the porch with me, enclosed by azaleas so big we were sitting in a "living" room.  Those swing talks convinced me, in the short thirteen years I had with her, that I was her favorite.  It took a while for me to realize that she had convinced others of the same.  Later, sixteen, I vividly remember sitting on the porch swing with my mom, so many life lessons, me confessing to a life filled with sin and shame, the drama queen that I was...am :).  My poor mother.... she really deserves sainthood for getting me through teenage years with relatively minimal damage.  The other most influential women in my life, my mother in law, also known as "Granny", and my MawMaw Annie Lee, didn't have literal porch swings but they were truly women that had time to be with me.  That's what it's about really.  Time.  No place those four women would rather be, just there with me, with everyone they loved.  What a gift I had.  Little did I know those women would shape me so powerfully as a mom.

We tend not to talk about our parenting victories while our kids are still formidable.  Thoughts sounding like "what if my kid screws up and everyone thinks I'm a failure and a hypocrite?".  I write this with certainty that I am a failure and a hypocrite.  Aren't we all in some ways?  I have 32 and 30 year old stepsons and a 19 year old, only my 13 year old home at this point.  What I have learned is that with all of them I have made HUGE mistakes.  I thought I would be a successful mom if I managed to raise kids that didn't need therapy because of me.  I'm pretty sure they all do to varying degrees.  I say that with a chuckle and smile, no shame. I'm sure there are few moms that would be left out of their child's therapy session.  Yet this really isn't about the sucky things I've done as a mom and stepmom.  What matters to me in this moment is what I have done right.  

I've spent the last couple of years with a full schedule that has been a little self focused.  So many classes, trainings, and courses.  I've gotten to know me.  In that process I've neglected a lot of things.  Cooking, housework, yard work, sometimes even friends and extended family.  I have not, however, neglected porch time.  I have decided that it matters most.  I make time for my kids AND their daddy.  We have spent hours on the swing.  A few years ago when my youngest was maybe 10 he would sit on the swing with me on summer mornings and say "what are we going to do today?" and I would respond with "we are going to let the day come to us".  He hated when I said that, now he says it to me.  When my 19 year old comes home he knows if I call him out to the porch he has my complete, undivided attention, diving into conversations that make my eyes cross half the time, his thought processes so beautiful yet difficult.  I know what it's like to question every single thing.  I'm thankful to give him an ear to process through it all.  My stepsons know that, although I made enough mistakes early on to deserve them hating me for life, the porch swing tends to help heal all the mess.  On that swing we have talked about the mess, exposing the brokenness to light, watching it heal.  

I haven't raised perfect kids and maybe I'm not qualified for advice giving, I will give it anyway.  Make time for the porch swing.  Be present with your kids.  Let them screw up knowing that there will be grace on that swing.  There will be hugs and tears.  Punish them? Sure. Then be done and sit a while.  There is nothing comparable to porch time with the mothers in my life. Time just sitting together, them holding space for me, shaped me in such good ways.  So moms, let go of any negative self talk about your job as a mother and focus on the thing you can do.  You can swing, you can put down every distraction and truly see and hear your babies. Listen to their dreams of what's to come and the joy or pain over what's done.  You can teach the important things by being present, eventually they will learn to be present to.  



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